2022-Aug-29: On Authoritarian Cops in the US

Cops in the US are a hot mess of authoritarianism, viewing themselves as an occupying army. They’re sufficiently out of hand that the “defund the police” movement is starting to look like the side with the cool-headed, sensible arguments.

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2022-Jul-21: While the World Burns

Everybody (well, every non-Republican) in the US is mad at Democratic Senator Manchin for being the vote blocking any meaningful climate change legislation at all. Well… there are a few other things to be mad about, right?

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2022-Jul-12: Is COVID-19 Omicron/BA.4-5 the Most Infectious Viral Disease in Human History?

Somebody asked me about how seriously we should take the COVID-19 Omicron/BA.4-5 variants, given that so many people are “done with COVID” and refuse to mask. Response: basically, we should take it very seriously; people without masks are being very silly. Silly in a deadly fashion, irresponsible to the health of the rest of us. To answer the titular question: yes, unfortunately, it appears so.

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2022-Jun-12: On the Lifetime of Conspiracies

The world is full of conspiracy theories, more than I recall ever being the case in the past, before social media. How reasonable is it to expect that a conspiracy can (a) depend on secrecy, (b) involve a large number of people, and (c) survive for more than a couple years? Not very, according to a probabilistic model!

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2022-Jun-02: Paxlovid in the Wild

An Israeli group has studied the use of paxlovid to treat COVID in a large group of age-stratified patients vs the SARS-CoV2 Omicron variant. The results are interesting, and a bit different from what I’d expected.

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2022-May-10: Compassion for the Unvaccinated

I have a hard time controlling my anger at the unvaccinated, the spreaders of disinformation, and the superstitious for prolonging the pandemic and killing people world-wide. Others, who are likely better people than me, have managed to find another way.

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2022-May-01: It's Always Been 2 Americas for COVID-19

COVID-19 has brought to light a lot of disparities in the US. Today’s scientific paper is about just how certainly we know the Trumpy parts of the country, especially the South, were COVID-19 disasters: hundreds of thousands of excess deaths due to mask defiance, vaccine refusal, and malign conservative disinformation.

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2022-Mar-09: Rethinking NPIs and Vaccinations

People are clamoring for an end to “restrictions”, by which they mean masks and closures. And, of course, vaccination mandates. They’re eager to be done with COVID-19, whether COVID-19 is done with them or not. Does any of that make sense? Well… some of it… maybe.

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2022-Feb-23: Pessimism and Optimism

Somebody asked me why I’m always so dour. Well, times are hard: pandemic waves, disinformation & death, potential nuclear war over Ukraine, the rise of the fascist right, climate change not only unchecked but furiously denied, and so on. So let’s take some inventory of our problems… and maybe a few points that (may) cause hope for the future.

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2022-Feb-19: Republicans Still a Death Cult?!

Yesterday came simultaneous bits of evidence in the US that (a) COVID-19 death rates for unvaccinated are unambiguously disastrous, and (b) Republicans attempted to defund any school that takes COVID-19 protections. This is ‘death cult’ levels of badness.

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2022-Feb-15: Sustaining Spirit in Hard Times: People are Complicated

Times are difficult, here in the 3rd year of a global pandemic that drags on and on, because people just cannot grasp the importance of public health measures and vaccination. Anything that sustains our spirit and our belief in a good core of human nature is important. So why am I looking at dog statues on bridges in Prague?

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2022-Jan-17: MLK Day 2022

Today in the US is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, when we honor the civil rights advocate who pushed for rights for racial minorities and the poor, for which he was assassinated. How best should that honor be expressed?

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2022-Jan-11: Finding paxlovid

Paxlovid is a remarkable early therapeutic for people who’ve caught COVID-19. But… it’s very scarce for the next few months, ironically during the Omicron wave. Where can you score some paxlovid?!

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2022-Jan-07: Tech Skepticism

It’s fashionable lately to be skeptical about technology. (Of everything, really.) Sometimes we don’t realize how deep are the roots of suspicion of innovation, and (usually) how wrong.

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2022-Jan-01: L'état du blog: 2021

A full calendar year of blogging has passed. So, thankfully, has the annus horribilis 2021CE. How did we come out? (The blog, that is. 2021 itself is still too traumatizing to discuss.)

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2021-Dec-15: Tis the Season… of the Analemma

It’s that season again: the time of nerdly meditations on the analemma. The shortest day of the year, Dec 21, is yet to come. But for night owls, the day of earliest sunset (at the latitude of Château Weekend) was Dec 8th. How can that be? That’s the tale of the analemma!

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2021-Dec-14: Veni, veni paxlovid!

Today Pfizer announced they’ve submitted the final data package to the FDA for their COVID-19 anti-viral oral therapy, paxlovid. Wanna take a look at the (scant) data we have so far, as a holiday gift of sorts to all of humanity?

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2021-Dec-06: Omicron vs Delta

Will the Omicron variant outcompete Delta? Starting to look like it. Will that be a bad thing? Dunno, could go either way depending on reinfection rate and severity.

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2021-Nov-19: A Couple Ivermectin Takedowns

The right-wing knuckleheadedness around ivermectin as a COVID-19 therapy continues to amaze me. This week I came across 2 ivermectin takedowns: a Malaysian clinical trial and Scott Alexander’s dissection of the ivmmeta.com metanalysis. Two thumbs down. Way down.

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2021-Nov-12: On New COVID-19 Therapeutics

Vaccines are great, but now there are some exciting new treatments for COVID-19, in case you get a breakthrough infection (or made the wrong choice about accepting vaccination). Let’s look at how well they work, and what they might cost in comparison to other things.

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2021-Oct-22: Cops vs The Rest of Us: Mask Edition

Two NYPD transit cops forcibly ejected a citizen from a Manhattan subway station. His crime? Pointing out that the cops were not wearing masks, in contravention of a statewide mask mandate, and, for that matter, simple common sense and courtesy.

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2021-Sep-13: On the ratio of Beta-distributed random variables

[Warning: Post contains full frontal nerdity. Bug reports appreciated!] I finally got a copy of Pham-Gia’s paper on the distribution of the ratio of 2 independent Beta-distributed random variables. While I still have some childhood trauma around hypergeometric functions like ${}_{2}F_{1}()$ and its even scarier big brother ${}_{3}F_{2}()$… it’s time to face my fears.

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2021-Sep-11: On war memorials

Today marks 2 decades since the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center in NYC, the Pentagon in DC, and a third target that was spared because airline passengers forced a crash in Shanksville, PA. It also marks, with the recent US withdrawal from Afghanistan, at least a winding down, though possibly not a complete ending, of 20 years of war. It’s time to think about war memorials… sort of.

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2021-Aug-19: Two Predictions

From time to time, we make predictions here. Two of them were: high probability of COVID-19 vaccine boosters by fall 2021, and mRNA vaccines will dramatically change the future of vaccines. Guess what happened this week?

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2021-Jul-12: Really, Republicans?

[Warning: US-centric, lefty political rant. If you’re from outside the US and want to laugh at us… well, fair enough: we’ve earned it.] I mean… really, Republicans? Do you seriously want to put up with politicians like this? For what possible reason? Why would you even want to be in the same party as people like this?

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2021-Jun-07: Stock Diversifiers: Treasury vs Corporate Bonds?

If you invest in US stocks, you certainly want to diversify with some bonds for risk control, availability of funds for rebalancing, and earning some income. Should you use Treasury bonds (which earn approximately nothing, but are safe) or corporate bonds (which earn something, but are riskier)?

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2021-Apr-30: CORVID 19

In Latin, “corvus” means crow. So the adjectival form used in biology for birds-such-as-crows is “corvid”. Sometimes people get confused in interesting ways.

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2021-Apr-23: JnJ Revenant

Today the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) today recommended restoring use of the JnJ COVID-19 vaccine with warnings, and thrombosis treatment guidelines for clinicians. The CDC & FDA agreed, and lifted the restrictions. This seems to be very much the correct conclusion, albeit one arrived at far too slowly.

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2021-Mar-10: Republicans vs Herd Immunity

If a large enough clade of US persons refuse COVID-19 vaccination, herd immunity may never be reached. Right now in the US, that clade seems to be White Republicans. (World-wide, it’s of course more complicated.)

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2021-Mar-08: I guess I like Dolly Parton?!

There is an apparently famous American country music singer named Dolly Parton. I was never a fan because… country music, ugh! But it appears I need to be a fan of the woman herself, because of her philanthropy and her encouragment of vaccination. Hmm… I had no idea.

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2021-Mar-03: Today I got shot

Today I got shot. No, not the bad way (though gun control is a legitimate issue in the US). I mean, with the first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. Getting the appointment (and the 2nd dose) was Kafkaesque. The actual medical experience was pretty ok.

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2021-Jan-14: COVID-19 loves Republican politicians

Suppose you had 2 groups of politicians, but one of them thought a pandemic was “fake news”, refused to wear masks, congregated indoors with no social distancing, blocked public health spending, mocked public health guidance, was proud of their ignorance, and were just in general jerks about the subject. Do you think they’d get infected with the disease more often than their opponents?

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2020-Dec-31: The mutant coronavirus: will the vaccines still work?

Somebody asked me whether the COVID-19 vaccines currently being used would work vs the mutant form of SARS-CoV-2 now driving COVID-19 in the UK. Looks like it probably will, though nobody really knows. What will definitely work: masking, social distancing, working from home, no gatherings beyond a single household, having adequate food & medicine stored, getting a flu vaccination, and not being a super-spreader of misinformation.

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2020-Dec-28: You're scaring me

You all are scaring me, with your science denying, mask refusing, socially close quarters, holiday travelling ways. C’mon: wear a mask, socially distance, avoid indoor gatherings, get a flu shot. At least pretend to try you want to live until the vaccine is available, ok? Then maybe you won’t randomly kill the rest of us, who do want to live.

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2020-Dec-21: Winter solstice, Dodds's Day, and the Weekend Editrix's Day

Today is the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere. It is not, however, the day of earliest sunset (of interest to night owls). Nor is it the day of latest sunrise (of interest to morning… people). Therein lies the tale of the analemma, first told to me long ago by a marvelous former colleague, Doug Dodds.

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2020-Oct-24: At autumn in New England, thoughts turn to...

At autumn in New England, thoughts turn to the extreme beauty of nature, the weather turning more comfortably cooler & drier, cinnamon and nutmeg smells everywhere, and… trebuchets, catapaults, air cannons, and other implements of imparting to pumpkins various levels of sub-orbital trajectories.

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